OSHA guidances take aim at deadliest hazards in construction industry
Two workers are killed every month in trench collapses, the agency said. Since 2003, there have been more than 200 fatalities and hundreds of serious injuries among workers in trench cave-ins.
"Cave-ins during excavations are some of the most common and grisliest causes of worker fatalities in construction, yet they are entirely preventable," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. Continued violations of OSHA's trenching standards are troubling to the OSHA chief.
The agency has issued a fact sheet, QuickCard, and poster to provide information on protecting workers during excavations.
"One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car," according to the new Trenching and Excavation Safety fact sheet. "Cave-ins pose the greatest risk and are much more likely than other excavation-related accidents to result in worker fatalities."
OSHA standards require that employers provide safe access and egress to all excavations, including ladders, steps, ramps, or other safe means of exit for employees working in trench excavations at least 4 feet deep.
Some of the general trenching and excavation rules include:
- Keep excavated soil and other materials at least 2 feet from trench edges.
- Inspect trenches at the start of each shift and after any occurrence that could have changed conditions in the trench.
- Keep heavy equipment away from trench edges.
- Identify other sources that might affect trench stability.
- Know where underground utilities are located before digging.
- Test for atmospheric hazards such as low oxygen, hazardous fumes, and toxic gases when more than 4 feet deep.
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October 31, 2011
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